Synopsis: Who is Sam Raines’s Perfect Ten?
It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th.
Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance.
But does a Perfect Ten even exist? Find out in this delectable coming-of-age romcom with just a touch of magic.
I received an ARC of this book through Penguin First to Read. Thanks!
Okay, so. This book isn’t my thing. When I applied for the copy, I thought it was just a contemporary – look at the cute cover! But alas, there’s a good chunk of magical realism in there. And you all know my relationship with magical realism. (It’s that I hate it.)
But, like, that’s not the reason I’m rating it so low. I’m not pathological. It’s my own fault for doing the bare minimum of research before requesting an ARC. I’m just saying this book and I were already off to a ROUGH start.
And it’s also that this book was lowkey unbearableeeee. It felt so cheesy and unrealistic and the main character was so pretentious I wanted to pour a hipster coffeeshop chai latte on his stupid hair. But we’ll get to all that.
THE GOOD STUFF
Uh…can “stuff” be singular? I have one thing. It’s a big good thing, though!
The main character of this is gay. Which is so great. In many ways – in all ways, really – this book was pretty typical/cheesy/cliché, but with the addition of LGBT rep. That kinda makes sense? More sense than if it was the same old tropes and the same old heterosexuals. Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying (and failing) to say is that it’s at least more important to tell more diverse versions of the same stories than to tell them over and over (and over) again with straighties.
But the downside? This was still really, really boring. Like, tempted-to-put-this-book-down (well, my phone down technically) and-do-homework levels of boring,. I say like I don’t spend the vast vast vast majority of my time doing schoolwork. Anyway. We’ll get to all that. (Except not the part about where I spend all my time studying. I need you guys to keep thinking I’m achieving, like, 1950s-guy-in-a-leather-jacket-with-a-nicotine-addiction levels of cool all the time. Which, hey, I totally am! And nailing good grades on top of it. You’re allowed to worship me as a hero. I’m fine with that.)
THESE CHARACTERS SUCK
Our central character is Sam. Sam is unlucky in love. Sam has 2 friends: one is Meg, who has that normal thing of deciding your parents are oppressing you so you shirk the religion that you feel they’re pressing on you but is actually just one of the tenets of their lives but anyway you don’t care about them so you become a witch. What? That’s not normal at all? It’s literally insane and makes no sense and why would someone ever build a book upon a foundation that wild? Touché.
Sam’s only other friend is his only ex-boyfriend, Landon. (You’d think these three must live in the dinkiest tiny town of all time, until never-before-seen-hot-guys start popping up out of nowhere – and Sam doesn’t even make out with all of them! But we’ll get there.) Sammyboy and Landon dated when they were teeny little things and their relationship was like, too intense or something so Sam ended it and broke Landon’s poor widdle heart. Also, by “intense” I mean toxic, repressive, unhealthy, and maybe even emotionally abusive. All accomplished by a couple middle schoolers! Nice. They’re like jealousyprodigies, my guy.
But let’s talk about why they suck individually, k?
Meg we basically covered. Her only traits are that she is in a bad relationship with a terrible (?) guy, which is something I am supposed to care about but absolutely do not, and that she is a LITERAL WITCH. SHE PRACTICES WITCHCRAFT. LIKE, WHAT? More on that later.
Landon is really controlling and gross. Even though Sam broke up with him years before for being horrible, Landon’s still all jealous whenever Sam so much as makes eye contact with another dude. So messy and toxic!!! End that friendship, idiot!!!!
And then the crown jewel of terribleness: Sam. Sam treats people like GARBAGE. But I’ll rant on that later, because that’s the entire plot of this book. He’s also so pretentious with his music taste and his dumb coffees and the way he talks. AND SO COCKY. He’s constantly talking about his writing, describing his stuff as “the most incredible stories” at one point. But lemme tell you, Sam tries to write quote-unquote song lyrics at one point, and it is NOT A FUN RIDE. (Those quasi-song lyrics later become Sammy’s NYU application, and everyone raves over it. It took me so long to even THINK that people could ever possibly compliment that weird-ass collection of sentences that I didn’t realize that was what they were throwing praise at until the end of the book.)
We also get a bunch of love interests but they are all so boring. One, Gus, is French, and anytime he says ANYTHING the author tries to write it in this weird cliché French accent. Like, “I vill be taking zee bus.” I hated it. There’s also Jamie, who’s an obsessive doormat who spends his time painting birds, worshiping at Sam’s feet, and TAKING GUYS TO HIS DAD’S GRAVE ON A FIRST DATE. Plus Travis, who is gross and mean and like twenty something. In his free time, he harasses high schoolers, buys them alcohol, never cleans his apartment, and is constantly described by the movement of his tongue ring. (Even grosser than it sounds.) (I don’t want to talk about it.)
This book was 350 pages of cringing.
The entire story of the book is founded upon this absolutely ridiculous thing, which is that Sam’s seventeen-year-old pal is a Wiccan who can “communicate” with ~The Goddess~ and do spells. I CAN’T WITH THAT. This is why I goddamn hate magical realism so frequently. That’s an unreal starting point for any book. Literally unreal. Get it? Anyway, if you can’t do it like The Night Circus, DON’T DO IT AT ALL. (Is that fair? No. But I recognize that, and I’m SAYING IT ANYWAY.)
Okay. So the general plot to this story, which I think I have at this point started saying 1000 times but never gotten there. Here we go. Sam has “dated” “the” “only” “eligible” “gay” “boy” in his small-town school, so he f*cking has his friend cast a spell to get him a hot boyfriend using a list of traits the ideal guy has to have – the “Perfect Ten.” Bleh. (Even though the thing I put in an excess of quotes is so patently untrue that Sam is nonstop meeting young, hot gay guys for the rest of the book.)
Anyway. Shocker – it’s not as simple as casting a creepy/suspicious/dumb spell! Poor little Sam actually gets THREE hot-ass guys, plus the leftover
residue from an emotionally abusive relationship that should never have been allowed to become an equally controlling friendship “sexual” “tension” with Landon! Ughhhh. This book just follows Sam as he messes with the feelings of a bunch of different people, while judging those who don’t fully commit to him – i.e., those who are acting like he is.
And we, as the audience, are just supposed to be pretty much okay with this. Here’s what Landon says to Sam, and what we’re supposed to believe: “Maybe [you were being an asshole]. Or maybe two really hot guys both wanted you and you had trouble deciding between them. […] Which isn’t an asshole move. Maybe a horny teenage boy move, but not an asshole move.”
Here’s the thing. The Venn diagram of “horny teenage boy move” and “asshole move” is a circle. Sam’s almost 18, as he reminds us and the older guy who is sexually harassing him. There’s no excuse for the way he treats people in this book. He ditches his friends, he rubs his suddenly-discovered hotness in their lonely rural faces, and when he discovers a cute lil guy, a wee babe who’s genuinely into him, he hooks up with another guy a bunch of times while leading him on. What the f*ck? Just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean you have an excuse to treat the people around you like sh*t. Or be a cheater! No matter your age, you should know the two rules of America: 1) don’t cheat on people and 2) snitches get stitches. These are the principles that founded this great nation.
Another thing that sucks: When the tiny bean of a baby finds out his God, Sam, has been cheating on him, Landon says that it’s the tiny bean’s fault for not forgiving Sam. Even not for “fighting for” him. WHAT?! Always break up with the people who cheat on you! Sam doesn’t disagree – in fact, he blames the bean – Jamie – for the whole thing. HE SAYS IF JAMIE REALLY WAS HIS “PERFECT TEN,” THEN SAM WOULDN’T HAVE WANTED TO CHEAT. Blaming a fifteen-year-old for not being perfect?! Those, my friend, are the sentiments of an INSANE PERSON.
Also, worst offense of all: That’s a boring ass plotline. Who caaaaares. It was so repetitive. Just makeouts and dates and the same settings and interactions for 350 pages. I could’ve written the most in-depth synopsis of this book in a handful of paragraphs.
THESE PEOPLE ARE BAD FRIENDS
I have, seriously, never read anything like the friendships in this book. They are so profoundly strange. Do people live like this? I pray they don’t. I can’t imagine.
I’ve already mentioned a million jillion times how unhealthy it is that Landon and Sam are still friends. Landon, like, freezes up with sudden-onset depression whenever Sam mentions a guy, and tries to prevent him from interacting with any potential suitor, out of his own poor self image, or whatever.
But when an older guy at a bar who they don’t know very well tries to take Sam home to his apartment ALONE after buying him drinks all night – knowing Sam is underage – MEG AND LANDON LET HIM GO. They spend the entire goddamn book policing his decisions (not what a friend should do), but when the essential stranger who has been sexually harassing him and plying him with illegal alcohol wants to take him home, they’re all like yeah, go for it.
Sam is almost as bad of a friend to Meg. Dumb as it is – and it’s un-freaking-bearably dumb – Meg is the one who got all this success in romance for him. And not only does he rub it in her face, he constantly harasses her about her relationship not being up to his standards and calls her a b*tch when she calls him out on his hypocrisy. He really, truly sucks.
They all just spend all this stupid time meddling in each other’s lives and trying to make decisions for each other, but they don’t do anything when it counts. Maybe because they only have TWO FRIENDS. Ugh. No one has relationships like this, right? Please tell me they don’t.
DOES EVERY BOOK HAVE SLUT SHAMING NOW?!
So. The main character of this book hooks up with three guys in the span of a couple weeks, and flirts with a few more. I’d be fine with that if he wasn’t cheating on someone for a bunch of those occurrences. But I’ve talked about.
Here’s the thing. After all that, this book slut shames. And not even to that asshole! (Again, not the sluttiness that makes him an asshole.)
When dumb Meg’s dumb boyfriend cheats on her, here’s Sam’s reaction: “‘Gillian Carlisle?’ I ask, incredulous. I knew Michael had no taste, but this is just ridiculous. ‘But she’s so slutty.’”
I WANT TO SCREAM FROM THE ROOFTOPS. Just because she hooks up with people doesn’t mean she’s less than! And the hypocrisy of Sam saying that with such vitriol when he’s so much worse than she could be – messing with people’s feelings – is so profoundly f*cked. I’m so, so mad at this book. The whole thing was a test of my strength, but the last hundred pages made me want to die.
AND NOW, IF YOU’LL ALLOW ME TO COMPLAIN ABOUT STUFF THAT DOESN’T MATTER
Here’s what needs to stop: Authors calling characters funny when they aren’t. At. All. The most useless dialogue in this book is followed up by responses like “I laughed so hard at that I got tears in my eyes.” It’s upsetting. Where are my funny characters at? Maybe I’ll send out a recommendation request.
Also, Sam applies for college and gets in, like, a few days later. I hate that. That’s so intensely not how it works.
Bottom line: Like The Upside of Unrequited, this is getting a little extra for good representation, but I HATED READING THIS MORE THAN I HATE STUDYING. (To be fair, I don’t really hate studying.)